Indiana News

Judge blocks new Indiana panhandling law from taking effect

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — A federal judge has blocked Indiana’s new tougher anti-panhandling law the day before it was to take effect.

The preliminary injunction issued Tuesday called the Republican-backed law “an unconstitutional prohibition on the freedom of speech.” U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered it could not be enforced while the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana proceeds.

The new law aimed to prohibit people from requesting money within 50 feet of sites such as ATMs, business and restaurant entrances, public monuments or the location of a financial transaction, which includes parking meters.  

The ACLU of Indiana has initiated a class action lawsuit against the Indiana State Police superintendent, the mayor of Indianapolis and the Marion County prosecutor, saying that the activities the ACLU conducts on Monument Circle each year on Constitution Day — distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution, soliciting donations in groups of two and asking people to join the ACLU — would fall under the amended definition of panhandling.

In her order, Magnus-Stinson said, “In the last four weeks, more Americans have exercised their First Amendment rights by protesting systemic racial inequality in this country than in perhaps the last four years. Americans’ exercise of their freedom of speech is shaping the way in which our country will move forward during this pivotal time in our history. Juxtaposed against this backdrop, the State of Indiana has a statute in place which restricts speech it labels panhandling and which is to be amended, effective July 1, 2020.”

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Magnus-Stinson said the amendments to the statute “will effectively prohibit all panhandling – long established by the United States Supreme Court as a form of First Amendment expression – in downtown Indianapolis and other urban areas within the state.”